At the September 19 School Committee meeting, there was a Transportation Update, a Preschool Registration discussion, and a Fall Human Resources Update.
Dr. Gutekanst introduced Chrissy McCourt as the new School Committee notetaker. He also mentioned Or So They Thought!, a recently published book by Needham resident and Pollard student, Marina Ganetsky, who was interviewed by Channel 4 News this week.
Shane Marchand, Director of Transportation, presented an update about school transportation.
They are transporting a slightly higher number of students this year compared to last year – up to 2,074 from 2,000, with the buses and vans largely back to full capacity.
They are running the Middle School Late Bus starting Sept 29, on Tues/Wed/Thurs for High Rock/Pollard.
They are mostly fully staffed, although there is still one vacant van driver position.
Currently there is no waitlist for any bus route, but students are still signing up and some routes are full. Primarily using MySchoolBucks for registrations, but can still register with paper forms.
The Multi-Function School Activity Bus (MFSAB) continues to be used frequently by the athletics department and for field trips. It has been a huge success, estimated to have saved the district almost $7,000 last year.
There have been a few problem areas as school has started with buses 11 and 17 getting from their Sunita Williams routes to the high school late, and buses 5 and 7 getting from Broadmeadow routes to Newman late. They are working on solutions to this with the possibility of adding two more buses at some point.
Summer transportation was a success, including a Needham bus for the first time ever with roughly 20-25 students riding it each day to get to their summer programs in Needham.
Daniel Cohen, Director of the Preschool Program, described a proposed revision to the Preschool enrollment process.
The proposal suggests moving from a first-come, first-served model of registration, during which slots are usually filled within 3 minutes, to a random selection process in which families apply during a 3 week window then are randomly chosen. While the Preschool has recently opened a new classroom, there has usually been a 40 family wait list after the registration window closes and this will hopefully make registration more equitable for these families. Additional details can be found in the packet.
The hope is to use this new process for the 2024-25 school year, opening up registration in October 2023.
Human Resources Update
Dr. Alexandra Montes McNeil, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, presented an update on Human Resources and staffing within the district. The district is specifically trying to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.
The district has 437 Total Teacher FTEs, there is an 87.5% Teacher retention rate, 21 teachers attained Professional Teacher status this year, and 3 administrators completed 3 years of service.
BIPOC staff has increased in the district; in 2019, 61.3 of the district wide FTEs were filled by people of color, in 2023 that number has increased to 90.8 FTEs.
The district employs multiple strategies to recruit a diverse staff.
There are currently only 7 Instructional Assistant vacancies compared to 30 of them last year at this time. 120 positions have already been filled for the year.
Retention rates fell again this year, following a recent trend. The rate is still higher, at 88%, than the state’s rate of 84.6%. More info was requested about the NPS retention rate compared to similar districts in the area. There was concern expressed about the teacher pipeline with fewer people choosing teaching as a career and with more people leaving the profession.
A successful orientation was provided to all new teachers this year.
The district is working in several areas to promote staff retention and employee satisfaction.
Through participation in a teacher diversification pilot program offered by the state, NPS was able to identify 3 teachers of color and provide them with over $13,000 of tuition reimbursement.
School Committee Comments
Andrea Longo Carter, School Committee Chair, reminded everyone that while the School Committee cannot respond to public comments at the start of meetings, they are very interested in hearing from the public. She invited people to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out via their Facebook page to engage in a discussion about issues of concern.
The next School Committee Meeting will be Tuesday, Oct 3 at 6:30pm.